“The Situation Remains Very Serious”: ‘Icarus’ Director On Fate Of Whistle-Blower Hero From Emmy-Contending Doc

Read on: Deadline.

For Icarus director Bryan Fogel, winning the Oscar for Best Documentary in March by no means marked the end of his awards season run. Six months after he earned the statuette for his film that exposed Russia’s vast athletics doping program, he finds hi…

Jim Meenaghan Named Co-Head of UTA Independent Film Group

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

United Talent Agency has named Jim Meenaghan the co-head of its independent film group.

The executive joins longtime group leader Rena Ronson in the department, a packaging and finance machine that reports to the agency’s David Kramer.

“The partnership of Jim and Rena will be a powerful combination for our clients working in the independent market,” Kramer said in a statement.

Meenaghan comes over from the motion picture business affairs group, which he’ll still oversee. In his new role, he’ll advise on content financing structures and distribution deals.

Also Read: Cannes Film Market ‘Healthy’ as New Players Fill Streaming Giant Void

He’ll also work with Asian markets and is tasked with expanding UTA’s footprint in independent animation (a big seller in international markets of late, like the Michael Jackson chimp stop-motion film “Bubbles,” which sold for $20 million at Cannes two years ago). The group is also a key player on the festival and awards circuit.

“I’m really happy to take on this new role and work closely with Rena and the fantastic team she has built to further expand the focus of the Independent Film Group,” Meenaghan said.

Meenaghan worked with Tang Media Partners on the formation of Global Road Studios, more recently with Australian production company Grace, and with animation studio 3QU Media. Prior to UTA, he served as head of motion picture business affairs for independent studios Walden Media and Icon Films. He started his career at Walt Disney.

During her tenure as head of UTA Independent Film Ronson has doubled the size of the department. Recent high-profile independently financed films, productions and co-productions from UTA include: “The Big Sick,” “I, Tonya,” “I Feel Pretty,” “Lady Bird,” “Hidden Figures,” “Call Me by Your Name,” and “Room.”

Last year, six films the UTA packaged earned 12 Academy Awards and three wins — including Bryan Fogel’s documentary “Icarus.”

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Oscars: 5 Things You Didn’t See on TV, From Kobe Bryant to Sam Rockwell’s Barney Fife Inspiration

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Jimmy Kimmel joked all night about how long the Oscars ceremony would be (although some winners really were really playing to win that jet ski!), and viewers of the ABC telecast got to see everything that happened on stage at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

But beyond the presentations of awards, musical extravaganzas and endless acceptance speeches, believe it or not, there were plenty of surprising moments that happened off-camera.

TheWrap was there to capture some of those best moments, including Sam Rockwell comparing his character to Barney Fife, and Kobe Bryant throwing some more shade at Fox News’ Laura Ingraham.

Also Read: 13 Best and Worst Oscars Moments, From Frances McDormand’s Speech to Gael Garcia Bernal’s Singing (Photos)

Sam Rockwell was inspired by Barney Fife

What do “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “The Andy Griffith Show” have in common? Rockwell said that he took inspiration for his bumbling, racist cop character from Barney Fife.

“I mean that when I say Barney Fife and, you know, the town of Ebbing is very much like Mayberry, and Woody Harrelson’s character is very much like the Andy Griffith character,” Rockwell said. “The goofiness of Barney Fife, the kind of hapless thing of Barney Fife, and then his transition into somebody else was just sort of — Travis Bickle was kind of a — Barney Fife to Travis Bickle was kind of a generalization, but it’s a lot more complicated than that, obviously.”

“Icarus” Director Bryan Fogel Calls for the International Olympic Committee President to Resign

Russia was banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics, but many Russian athletes were still able to participate in the games as independent athletes. Director Bryan Fogel was watching the Olympics closely. And after winning the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, Fogel used his platform to call on the president of the International Olympic Committe, Thomas Bach, to resign from his post at the IOC.

“Plain and simple, Thomas Bach needs to resign. He is a crook, and what he has shown to Planet Earth and any athlete who believes in the Olympic ideal is to not trust it and to not trust those words,” Fogel said in the press room afterwards. “Because if you can corroborate and prove and substantiate a fraud on this caliber on this level that spanned for decades, and then essentially give that country that committed that fraud a slap on the wrist, allow 160 of their athletes to compete in those games, two of them found doping, and then immediately after the games are over, without that country ever accepting responsibility, apologizing for any of their actions or accepting that any of this was truth while they continue to hunt Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, and they lift the ban on that country: What a fraud. What a corrupt organization, and that man should be embarrassed and ashamed of himself. He needs to resign.

Kobe Bryant Addresses His Acceptance Speech

Kobe Bryant knows a few things about winning (ask all the Lakers fans in L.A.) But his co-director on the Oscar winning animated short “Dear Basketball,” Glen Keane, joked that at least tonight he doesn’t have to celebrate his victory by sitting in a tub of ice. During his acceptance speech however, Bryant threw some shade at Ingraham, referencing her “shut up and dribble” comments. He clarified those comments in his post-acceptance speech interview.

For us not just as athletes but as people in general, we have the ability to speak up for what you believe in — whether you’re a professional athlete or not, whether you’re an actor or not, you still have the ability to speak up for things that you believe in. You have the right to criticize. This is the democracy that we live in. This is what makes America beautiful.”

“A Fantastic Woman” Faces a Tough Road Ahead in Chile

Sebastian Lelio is celebrating his win for Best Foreign Language Film for “A Fantastic Woman,” but he said it was one step on the road toward acceptance of transgender people in the film’s native country of Chile.

“It has been a long struggle to have the State recognizing or acknowledging the existence of transgender people,” Lelio said. “And now we are about to face the — a new government, which is very right wing and very conservative, and I think it would mean a step backwards. And I hope this award and film and the awareness that the film has created, the amplifier that this means helps to, yeah, give more relevance to, again, a matter that is urgent. Because again, a transgender person is not a Class B person. It’s one of us.”

Why “Coco” and “Black Panther” Can Change the World

“Coco” hails from “Pixar” and “Black Panther” hails from Marvel, both subsets of Disney, but they have more in common than you think. Adrian Molina, the co-director of the Best Animated Feature winner “Coco,” explained why both of these movies are important.

“We worked very hard to show that films about communities of color, films that come from particular places, have resonance that reaches across the world,” Molina said. “You see that with ‘Coco,’ you see that with ‘Black Panther,’ and I think you’re going to see it with a lot of other films in the future. It takes going hand in hand with the studio executives to recognize that’s a fact and to support each other.”

“With ‘Coco,’ we tried to take a step forward toward a world where all children can grow up seeing characters in movies that look and talk and live like they do,” Unkrich added. “Marginalized people deserve to feel like they belong. Representation matters.”

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Attorney for Russian ‘Icarus’ Whistleblower Blasts Olympic Anti-Doping Effort

Read on: Variety.

WASHINGTON — The attorney for the Russian whistleblower featured in Bryan Fogel’s Oscar-nominated movie “Icarus” is blasting the International Olympic Committee for not taking harsher measures against Russia for the state-sanctioned use of performance enhancing drugs by its athletes. Jim Walden, the attorney for Grigory Rodchenkov, who is at the center of “Icarus,” spoke to […]

Oscar Nominees Explain What Makes Documentaries Feel ‘Alive’ (Video)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

One of the axioms of great documentary filmmaking is the idea that you start making your movie expecting one thing, but find the story is something completely different during the course of filming.

It doesn’t feel like it’s true of every documentary you see, but it certainly is true for the five Oscar nominated documentary features this year. And if you ask these filmmakers, they’ll tell you that discovery process is essential for anyone who is being true to their medium.

“If you made a documentary film and had an idea of what it was going to be and the film was exactly that at the end, it would be a totally dead product,” Dan Cogan, the co-director of “Icarus,” told TheWrap’s Sharon Waxman. “The thing that makes it alive is discovering how it changes and running with that and following that, and the skill of it is to recognize what’s unfolding and follow the essence of that story and follow it as it goes.”

Also Read: Short Documentary Oscar Nominees on Advantages, Intimacy of Short Form (Exclusive Video)

Filmmakers from each of the five documentary features spoke as part of TheWrap’s panel discussion at the Landmark Theatres in Los Angeles on Wednesday night. The films are wildly different, ranging from tragedies personal and global to more lighthearted journeys, but each grew into the powerful movies we see today.

“Icarus” seems to most clearly embody that philosophy of how a good documentary evolves, with Cogan and Bryan Fogel drastically changing course once they realized their subject, Grigory Rodchenkov, was the mastermind behind the Russian doping scandal and that his life was in grave danger.

“I was in way deeper than I had expected to be,” Fogel said. “That process was essentially two and a half years in the making before we were in so deep and realized that we were sitting on a whistleblower and a trove of evidence that was irrefutable and so spectacular in scope it changed essentially all of Olympic history, because what Russia had been doing in Sochi was just the icing on the cake.”

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But the other four documentaries followed a similar trajectory. Yance Ford spent 10 years trying to make his personal crime story “Strong Island,” and two years into the course of filming, Trayvon Martin was murdered. The film is a hybrid of a true-crime documentary and a family portrait about how his brother William was shot and killed by a white man. And time and again, Ford watched the movie’s narrative unfold before him. As a result, “Strong Island” had to change to react to the changing culture.

“I wouldn’t have imagined that the same narrative about fear and hyper-physicality would actually repeat itself in some instances in the Zimmerman case,” Ford said. “I realized that this history of racialized violence, this use of fear as a justification for homicide, was much older than the Martin case. It was much older than my brother’s.”

Mark Mitten, the producer of “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” was close with the Sung family, who operated the family-run bank Abacus located in New York’s Chinatown. When they were indicted and chose to fight the government by going to court, he had no idea how the trial was going to pan out and what the fate of this family would be.

Also Read: Yes, Lance Armstrong Saw Doping Documentary ‘Icarus’ – and Was ‘Blown Away’

“Nobody was covering this story,” Mitten said. “I did some investigating and found out they were the only bank going to be indicted for mortgage fraud as part of the 2008 financial crisis, which is pretty remarkable.”

And of course Mitten’s director on “Abacus,” Steve James, knows a thing or two about not knowing the ending of a documentary before he starts. This is James’s first Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature, but he previously directed the famous ’90s film “Hoop Dreams,” spending four years with the two Chicago high school students at its center. James spoke about the challenges of not being able to film during the court proceedings and how he still managed to tell the Sung family’s story.

“It’s the lesson of how you make a film with great limitations. It’s figuring out how to still try to tell the story needs to be told and tell it in a hopefully compelling way despite those limitations. ” James said. “Sometimes limitations can be a great inspiration to and can lead to focusing in different ways.”

Also Read: ‘Strong Island’ Review: Poignant Netflix Doc Covers Race, Crime and a Family’s Pain

Feras Fayyad, the director of the harrowing Syrian documentary “Last Men in Aleppo,” got out of being tortured in a Syrian prison and picked up a camera. He put his camera right at the eye lines of the local Syrian first responders, or the White Helmets, and saw through their eyes the horrors they were witnesses to. Fayyad had no idea whether his subjects would even one day make it out of Aleppo alive.

“If you want to tell something, keep it in your mind and show it in a different way,” Fayyad said. “When I got out of prison, I had in my mind to do this film, but I knew I would be facing the war machine and the intelligent services and all that. But I’m not the only one. There were many artists and filmmakers who were arrested in the same time, trying to do this. I’m the lucky one who gets this idea to bring it in front of people and watch it here.”

Ted Soqui

And then there’s JR, the French artist who along with the legendary French New Wave director Agnes Varda made the delightful European road trip movie “Faces Places.” He charmingly Skyped into the panel discussion, with his face appearing larger than life on the movie screen behind the panelists. The frivolity of “Faces Places” doesn’t suggest the same sort of challenges or sense of danger some of these filmmakers faced. The truck they toured the countryside in didn’t break down, and they didn’t run out of equipment during a job. But it wasn’t until months into their journey that they realized they would even be making a film.

Also Read: ‘Faces Places’ Directors Agnès Varda and JR Look for Fun in a ‘Disgusting’ World

“We actually got to know each other making this film,” JR said. “That’s why we were moving with such lightness because there was never this weight of. what will be the story? Where is this taking us?”

One of these five films will win the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature on March 4. So we don’t know how this story ends either.

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Yes, Lance Armstrong Saw Doping Documentary ‘Icarus’ – and Was ‘Blown Away’

Lance Armstrong on Russian Doping Documentary ‘Icarus’: ‘I Can Relate’

Read on: Variety.

Lance Armstrong can relate to Russia. Sort of. The fallen cyclist, who was banned from sanctioned Olympic sports for life in 2012 as a result of long-term doping offenses, was at New York’s 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday to support Neftlix’s doping documentary, “Icarus.” After a screening of the Academy Award shortlisted doc, which […]

Yes, Lance Armstrong Saw Doping Documentary ‘Icarus’ – and Was ‘Blown Away’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Before you ask him, yes, Lance Armstong has seen the new doping documentary “Icarus” — and he loved it.

The embattled cyclist, who was banned from sanctioned Olympic sports for life in 2012 as a result of long-term doping offenses, even took to Twitter to praise Bryan Fogel’s Netflix film, which made the long list earlier this month for the Oscars’ Best Documentary Feature category.

“After being asked roughly a 1000 times if I’ve seen @IcarusNetflix yet, I finally sat down to check it out,” Armstrong wrote on Tuesday. “Holy hell. It’s hard to imagine that I could be blown away by much in that realm but I was. Incredible work @bryanfogel!”

Also Read: Dick Enberg, Sports Broadcasting Legend, Dies at 82

Fogel began “Icarus” as a first-person investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports, inspired by Armstrong’s experience. But eventually the director stumbled onto Russia’s extensive state-sanctioned doping program, which recently got the country banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics.

“I started out to kind of make a ‘Super Size Me’ doc, that I was gonna be a guinea pig and see whether or not the anti-doping system worked,” the director told TheWrap at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. “In the process of doing this, I get put in touch with this guy, Grigory Rodchenkov.”

Also Read: ‘Icarus’ Director on Helping Anti-Doping Expert Flee Russia (Video)

However, Fogel realized something wasn’t quite right. “We’re Skyping back and forth, I go to Moscow, and all this time I’m going ‘Oh, my God, I’ve got the scientist who’s Russia’s anti-doping lab, he should not be doing this, what am I going to do?’”

Soon after, an independent report alleged widespread doping among Russian athletes, with Rodchenkov — the director of the Anti-Doping Centre in Moscow and the man in charge of testing all of Russia’s athletes — at the center of it.

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After decades of cycling successes, Armstrong’s reputation was forever tarnished when — after denying for years that he had taken performance-enhancing drugs — he finally admitted to doping in a January 2013 interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Since then, all his results going back to August 1998, including his seven Tour wins, have been voided.

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Read on: Deadline.

For sheer newsworthiness, Bryan Fogel‘s documentary Icarus must qualify as perhaps the most impactful documentary of the year.

The film played a key role in exposing the vast athletics doping program orchestrated by the Russian government, which recently prompted the International Olympic Committee to ban Russia from the upcoming Winter Games in South Korea.
Icarus was one [piece] of the evidence that the [IOC] used in making that decision and we’re very pleased…

Russia Olympics Ban Applauded By ‘Icarus’ Filmmakers

Read on: Deadline.

The International Olympic Committee said today that it is banning Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea following its investigations of a doping scheme. The news was met with applause by Bryan Fogel and Dan Cogan, filmmakers behind the Sundance Film Festival award-winning documentary, Icarus, an exposé chronicling Fogel’s investigation into the international world of sports doping. Netflix has rights and premiered the film in August.
“We applaud today’s…

‘Icarus’ Director on Helping Anti-Doping Expert Flee Russia (Video)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Bryan Fogel’s Sundance documentary “Icarus,” debuted to instant buzz and bidding, ultimately going to Netflix for $5 million, one of the largest buys ever for a nonfiction film.

Fogel explained that the film was inspired by Lance Armstrong’s evasion of doping detection and was originally meant to be a bit lighter in tone.

“I started out to kind of make a ‘Super Size Me’ doc, that I was gonna be a guinea pig and see whether or not the anti-doping system worked … In the process of doing this, I get put in touch with this guy, Grigory Rodchenkov.”

Also Read: Netflix Acquires Worldwide Rights to Russian Doping Documentary ‘Icarus’

Rodchenkov, the director of the Anti-Doping Centre in Moscow and the man in charge of testing all of Russia’s athletes, agreed to help Fogel with his documentary. However, Fogel realized something wasn’t quite right.

“We’re Skyping back and forth, I go to Moscow, and all this time I’m going ‘Oh my God, I’ve got the scientist who’s Russia’s anti-doping lab, he should not be doing this, what am I going to do?’”

Soon after, an independent report alleges widespread doping among Russian athletes, with Rodchenkov at the center of it.

Also Read: ‘Icarus’ Sundance Review: Suspenseful Doping Doc Exposes Russian Scandal

“A day after this report breaks, he’s resigned from the lab. He’s telling me, ‘I am the only man that can kill the Olympics, I’m the only man who can kill Russia, I’m the only man who can kill WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) … and they’re gonna kill me.’”

Fearing for his friend’s life, Fogel bought a ticket for Rodchenkov to flee to the U.S.

“At this point, we had a friendship,” the director said. “It wasn’t about being a filmmaker, it was this obligation that I felt that I had to try to save this guy’s life.”

Also Read: Russia’s Only Track and Field Athlete Suspended From Rio Olympics

Watch the full interview above.

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Netflix Acquires Worldwide Rights to Russian Doping Documentary ‘Icarus’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Netflix has acquired the worldwide rights to the Russian doping documentary “Icarus” after its screening at the Sundance film festival, TheWrap has learned.

The film follows Bryan Fogel, an endurance cyclist who sets out to investigate doping in sports by doping himself, documenting the changes in his performance over a pair of races, seeing if he can avoid detection.

Over the course of his investigation however, Fogel meets Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the head of Russia’s government anti-doping program. Over dozens of Skype calls in which the Russian expert instructs Fogel how to meet his goals, the two forge a deeply personal bond.

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As shocking allegations emerge that Rodchenkov actually ran a large-scale doping scheme during the Sochi Olympics, and as accusations of illegality leading all the way to the Kremlin, the two collaborate to reveal the biggest international sports scandal in living memory.

“This has been an intense 3.5 year personal journey that exposed the biggest scandal in sports history,” Fogel said. “To be able to work with Netflix, a company that is able to launch this story globally in such a big way, with such potential for social and political impact, is a spectacular honor.”

The film is an Impact Partners presentation in association with Chicago Media Project, Diamond Docs and Alex Productions. “Icarus” was written by Fogel, Mark Monroe and Timothy Rode and produced by Dan Cogan, Fogel, David Fialkow and Jim Swartz.

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‘Icarus’ Sundance Review: Suspenseful Doping Doc Exposes Russian Scandal

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The recent turmoil in global sports over doped athletes, corrupt officials and tainted results has produced a pair of headline-grabbing supervillains in American cyclist Lance Armstrong — stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping — and current conspiracy poster-country Russia, which saw over a hundred of its athletes banned from the 2016 Rio Olympic games.

Playwright and amateur cyclist Bryan Fogel’s propulsive documentary “Icarus” is (accidentally, Fogel would admit) a convergence of those stories. What started as an attempt to see if he could get away with injecting himself with performance enhancers and not get caught became an unexpected dive into the heart of the Russian doping scandal that galvanized the globe last year. (Until Russia upped itself in meddling controversies with the American election.)

What Fogel didn’t count on when he began his quasi-larkish, semi-serious experiment in Armstrong-style cheating in 2014 was the baggage surrounding the scientist he was hooked up with to oversee his regimen: Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the head of Russia’s anti-doping lab, a blustery eccentric who would eventually expose himself in the summer of 2016 to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as the man at the center of his country’s pervasive athlete-doping program.

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So while the first half of “Icarus” is driven by Fogel’s quixotic quest to artificially improve his cycling stamina and get away with it, the second half explodes into a full-on whistleblower thriller starring Rodchenkov, with Fogel tasked with protecting Russia’s own Edward Snowden. (It’s the movie’s nifty pitch, too: Wannabe Morgan Spurlock unwittingly becomes Laura Poitras.) In this case, of course, Russia is the opposite of the asylum it was for Snowden at the end of “CitizenFour,” with “Icarus” openly suggesting that Rodchenkov’s spilling of secrets has put his life in danger.

That makes “Icarus” a wildly timely movie for our current moment, as issues of cheating, illegitimacy and geopolitical bullies take center stage. At first, though, Fogel’s focus is in individual sport, and because he’s a longstanding amateur cyclist, it’s personal: How, he wonders, could someone like Lance Armstrong never fail a drug test while doping the entire time? With his eye on doing better at the notoriously difficult Haute Route multi-day race in the French Alps — amateur cycling’s toughest competition — and a theory that anti-doping systems are doomed to fail, Fogel sets up his experiment in performance enhancement and test evasion.

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He’s put in touch with Rodchenkov, who runs WADA’s state-of-the-art Moscow lab and who agrees — mysteriously, considering the illicitness of it all, and that everything will be captured on camera — to advise and oversee Fogel’s regimen. A humorous montage of posterior injections, training, urine collection, and Skype sessions follows, whereby the caustically witty Fogel and the rumpled, gregarious Rodchenkov (who travels to L.A. to “smuggle” Fogel’s untainted urine back to Moscow) form an unlikely friendship.

When German television airs a documentary in late 2014 implicating Rodchenkov in a massive Russian doping program, spurring a WADA investigation, Fogel’s suspicions are raised about his project partner. But he trudges forward with his “Super Size Me”-style undertaking, even though the growing international swirl around the allegations about Russia adds a decided edge to Rodchenkov’s personality.

Fogel paces these sequences like he’s in a race already, and it soon becomes clear why: his Haute Route adventure, which culminates halfway through “Icarus,” ultimately takes a backseat to the Rodchenkov story, which heats up when he resigns from the Moscow lab and hightails it to the U.S. with a hard disk and a fear for his safety. Though having Rodchenkov narrate passages from “1984” is a tad much, the story he relates to Fogel’s camera about his life as the mastermind behind a statewide system of athletic doping paints an engrossing, disturbing and believable picture of years-long, high-level corruption and painstaking illegality.

As for the elaborate, surreptitious urine-swapping system deployed for the Sochi winter games, aided by the KGB — and rendered here with animation, so that it plays like a spy thriller — Rodchenkov states, “I pulled off 13 gold medals.”

See Video: Alex Gibney on Lance Armstrong Lying to Him: I Had to Investigate Myself

The rest of “Icarus” sees Fogel shepherding Rodchenkov through a gauntlet of lawyers, New York Times reporters, and the exile’s own guilt about his involvement. When the story breaks, and the IOC moves to ban Russian athletes from Rio, Rodchenkov is denounced by Putin, Russia’s Minister of Sport, and his homeland’s media, although reports of the sudden deaths of former colleagues tell a different story.

By the time “Icarus” reaches its sobering conclusion — with Rodchenkov in protective custody, and WADA’s findings in line with his expansive tale — Fogel has made us feel we’ve come a long, treacherous way from his initially impish idea about cheating at sports. Though the documentary’s early musings about athletic integrity in general are ultimately usurped by a tale of personal responsibility and nefarious global power, the disruption feels acute and essential.

As unwieldy as “Icarus” is with its rollicking events, figures and details, it could easily be read as an unsettling harbinger of destabilizing times to come, when the might of ill-meaning people in power has the capacity to veer any of us off-track.

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Read on: Variety.

Bryan Fogel had created a nice cottage industry when he wrote, directed, and performed in the romantic comedy “Jewtopia.” He took the stage play from Los Angeles to New York, then directed the feature film version released in 2013. Admittedly “desperate not to go through the rest of life as the ‘Jewtopia’-guy,” though, Fogel turned… Read more »